Le Beau Serge (1958)




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Le Beau Serge was the first film of French critic-turned-director Claude Chabrol. Though not a murder melodrama, the film is heavily influenced by the works of Chabrol's idol Alfred Hitchcock, Shadow of a Doubt in particular. Ailing city dweller Francois (Jean-Claude Brialy) makes a therapeutic return visit to his home town in the country. Here he visits childhood friend Serge (Gerard Blain), and is appalled to find how far Serge has plummeted into alcoholism and self-pity. The two protagonists indulge in a transference of personal guilt, then an "exchange of redemption" (to quote Chabrol chronicler Charles Derry). Highly influential in the French New Wave movement of the 1950s, Le Beau Serge has something very special to say about the care and nurturing of friendship, especially one that has dimmed with distance and time. Both male stars, as well as leading lady Bernadette Lafont, would continue working with director Chabrol for the remainder of his career.
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Criterion Collection


Claude Cerval
as The priest
Andre Dino
as Michel, the doctor
Jeanne Pérez
as Madame Chaunier
Michel Creuze
as The Baker
Philippe de Broca
as Jacques Rivette de la Chasuble
Claude Chabrol
as La Truffe
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Critic Reviews for Le Beau Serge

All Critics (9) | Top Critics (3)

It presents a bleak, beautifully observed picture of provincial life, later revisited to even more stunning effect in Le Boucher.

Full Review… | September 19, 2011
Time Out
Top Critic

An important new French director, Claude Chabrol, is unveiled in this pic.

Full Review… | September 19, 2011
Top Critic

It has a certain fascination as Chabrol's first practical (as opposed to critical) encounter with mise en scene.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Part mock-neorealist homoerotic foxtrot, part obsessively symmetrical Cahiers du Cinéma analysis of Hitchcock's I Confess

Full Review… | February 6, 2014

Chabrol didn't work out his film-making kinks until his next pictures.

Full Review… | April 1, 2013
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Whether or not (it) was the start of the New Wave, it was the start of Chabrol.

Full Review… | September 30, 2011
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Audience Reviews for Le Beau Serge


Claude Chabrol's feature debut, "Le Beau Serge," isn't as strong as his subsequent "Les Cousins" (which stars the same two actors), but it's still an engrossing, thoughtful look at love and friendship. Francois (Jean-Claude Brialy) is a sensitive young man who returns to his small village after a debilitating lung illness. Sadly, he finds his once-promising friend Serge (Gerard Blain) deteriorated into drunken misery. Serge has a lousy job, a bad attitude and a sad relationship with a pregnant wife whom he doesn't love. Francois (who has a faint messiah complex) has unrealistic ambitions to inspire Serge and the other townsfolk out of their resigned mundanity, but trouble starts when he courts a wanton teenager (Bernadette Lafont) with a belligerent, jealous caretaker. "Serge" seems a bit soft when compared with many other French New Wave films -- especially given its somewhat syrupy, intrusive score -- but Lafont's sexy, calculating character adds some edge. Watch for assistant director Philippe de Broca (later, a successful filmmaker on his own) briefly appearing as a friend knowingly named "Jacques Rivette." Warning: The TCM print I saw had two surprising external flaws. The lazy subtitles opted to skip far too much "trivial" dialogue, and the film image had some notable blemishes in the last 15 minutes. In a work only dating from the late 1950s, the latter seems inexcusable.

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer


Le Beau Serge is the first film by Claude Chabrol and in his debut creates a wonderful Drama with solid acting and amazing artistic characteristics. The film which was shot in his own childhood village really adds to the feel of the story and made for a beautiful location. In one of the supplementary features the Director now in his old age talks about going back there and how he does so often. Many of the actors meet one another in the village where many still reside to this day, what a fascinating and wonderful place! The story is one that is very down to earth and focuses on tough and emotional topics and make it a heart wrenching watch that is wonderful to view. This is a hugely influential film in the French New Wave, some argue it's the first, but either way it is truly a fascinating gem!

Chris Browning
Chris Browning

Super Reviewer

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